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International Ban Asbestos Secretariat

Kazan Foundation Supports IBAS Grant for Doctor’s Asbestos Training

mesothelioma research

In order to file an asbestos claim, patients must first show that they’ve experienced irreversible damage to their respiratory system, and that asbestos is truly the cause. This requires the expertise of doctors who are specially trained by groups like the International Labour Organisation, or ILO, to identify asbestos-induced illness.

The 2012 International Ban Asbestos Secretariat grant was awarded to Dr. Abhijeet Jadhav, who used the grant to complete his training for the ILO 2000 International Certification of Radiographs of Pneumoconioses. With this education, Jadhav now has the knowledge needed to read the X-rays of patients who potentially have asbestos claims to file.

What do X-rays tell us?
In addition to causing asbestosis, the inhalation of asbestos fibers can drive other life-threatening illnesses, such as malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer – all of which affect the respiratory system. To the untrained observer, some of the symptoms of these diseases, including chest pain and breathing difficulties, are hard to tell apart from each other. This is where chest X-rays come in handy.

Using these radiological scans, trained physicians can more closely examine patients’ bones, hearts and lungs. When it comes to the lungs, X-rays can reveal problems such as collapse, abnormal fluid collection, tumors, malformed blood vessels and scarring. The formation of scar tissue is a distinguishing characteristic of asbestosis, along with coughing, sensations of chest tightness, nail abnormalities and clubbing of the fingers.

IBAS grant recipient makes good use of award
The World Health Organization estimates that 125 million people all over the globe deal with asbestos exposure in the workplace. Many of these individuals are from developing countries, such as India. This is where Jadhav decided to put his ILO training, which he paid for with the IBAS grant, to good use.

For his study, Jadhav interviewed 17 individuals – all of whom were former workers in a factory that manufactured asbestos and cement sheets, and all of whom were asbestosis patients. The research team asked the study participants about their work setting, what they knew concerning the health risks of asbestos exposure and how their conditions affected family life.

The interviews revealed that the subjects didn’t see their sicknesses as a big deal, but this may have something to do with the fact that fatal asbestos-related illnesses can take decades to develop.

Here’s what Jadhav had to say about the study, which was published in the Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine:

“It suggests a need of very strong program for prevention of asbestosis with the incorporation of worker awareness and education for safety. The socio-economical status and educational levels of the workers make this floating population more vulnerable for manipulation by the corporates.”

Jadhav said that India also needed a stronger foundation for providing injured workers with rehabilitation and palliative care. Ultimately, though, he concluded that there’s only one real solution for protecting workers: banning the use and production of asbestos around the world.

The partners behind the Kazan, McClain, Abrams, Fernandez, Lyons, Greenwood, Oberman, Satterley & Bosl Foundation couldn’t agree more, and want nothing but the best for our clients and workers everywhere. That’s why we’re proud to support IBAS so that it could help others.

Asbestos Issue Rising to the Forefront in Brazil

Like a number of countries around the world, Brazil is currently in the midst of tackling a major public health issue that has continued to pose a serious risk to its citizens for years: asbestos.

Brazil has been one of the countries at the forefront of the asbestos issue since the Global Asbestos Congress was held in the nation in 2000. A number of Brazil’s major states – including Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Rio Grande do Sul have already moved to ban the carcinogenic substance, while similar legislation is circulating in other regions of the country as well.

According to Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator for International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), while the asbestos lobbyists in Brazil have taken a serious hit, resistance to the ban is still pretty prevalent throughout the country. Wealthy asbestos backers have pushed for the status quo, which supports the “controlled use of asbestos,” according to Kazan-Allen.

Asbestos hearings headed to Brazilian Supreme Court

August marks an important month for the fate of asbestos in Brazil. Kazan-Allen notes that the Brazilian Supreme Court is set to take on the issue, hearing from local and international experts ranging from supporters of the ban to industry backers.

Last week, an agenda was set for the initial round of hearings on the asbestos issue, with more than 35 speakers scheduled to testify on the issue, including some of the world’s most notorious asbestos supporters. Scientific experts from Italy, Brazil and the U.S. are also scheduled to appear during the court hearings.

As Kazan-Allen notes, the international importance of the court hearings can be seen in the fact that the end-of-the-month proceedings will be translated into English.

Despite scientific evidence, asbestos issue rolls on

Though many states in Brazil have banned the substance, the fact that asbestos industry supporters still have a voice is alarming considering the plethora of evidence pointing to the serious risks caused by exposure to the carcinogenic material.

The dangers of asbestos have been seen as far back as the days of Pliny the Elder, the Roman philosopher who noticed that slaves who worked with asbestos appeared to suffer a “sickness of the lungs.”

Fast forward to 2012, and it has been well-documented that asbestos exposure can lead to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma. All told, the World Health Organization estimates that such asbestos-related diseases kill approximately 107,000 people around the world each year.

Eternit Seeks to Protect Itself, Shed Asbestos Exposure Blame

Eternit looks to shed asbestos blame in Italy An ongoing trial in Italy is the latest example of an asbestos company looking to skirt the legal system and absolve itself from blame at the expense of exposure victims.

In a recent blog post, Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), noted that the “Great Asbestos Trial” involving asbestos conglomerate Eternit in Italy is beginning to show signs of corruption.

Specifically, Kazan-Allen wrote that lawyers for Stephan Schmidheiny, one of the two former Eternit executives being taken to court, have been engaging in secret negotiations with a number of municipalities that are directly involved in the case. With a three-judge panel expected to announce a verdict on February 13, the lawyers are seeking withdrawal of civic authorities from the case, which would undoubtedly have serious consequences for exposure victims.

Casale Monferrato offered millions by defendant’s lawyers

Casale Monferrato, the site of the recent international meeting dubbed “A World Without Asbestos” which sought to eliminate asbestos-related diseases around the world, is one town that has reportedly been offered a substantial amount of money from Schmidheiny’s attorneys.

According to Kazan-Allen, the town has been offered up to €20 million to settle the claim and withdraw “from this and any future trials (against Eternit) that it might be involved in.”

But Casale Monferrato is not alone, as the Mayor and town council of Cavagnolo agreed to a deal with the lawyers for €2 million for asbestos decontamination. As part of this “tombstone agreement,” the town said it would not bring any more legal action against the former Eternit executive even if more evidence was uncovered, Kazan-Allen explained.

Potential corruption taking focus away from victims

While the Mayor of Casale Monferrato has publicly stated the town would not consider an agreement similar to the one made in Cavagnolo, a source told Kazan-Allen that Casale’s town council is “refusing to show victims and unions the draft of the (proposed) agreement,” leading to more speculation that the municipality could ultimately give in.

Either way, the attention has been shifted away from the plight of the asbestos exposure victims in this case, many of whom are likely suffering from diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis or malignant mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer.

Scientific evidence continues to substantiate the claims of these individuals, as the World Health Organization estimates approximately 107,000 people are killed each year around the world as a result of such asbestos illnesses.

A Deadly Reminder: 20th Anniversary of Overturning U.S. Asbestos Ban Marked

Gaval on U.S. flagOn October 18, 1991, vested interests including the federal government of Canada, the province of Quebec and asbestos supporters and stakeholders successfully overturned the U.S. Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule (ABPR).

Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS), said in a press conference marking the anniversary in Ottawa that the decision to overturn the EPA’s asbestos ban led to an additional 300,000 tons of the carcinogenic material being used in the U.S.

“The continuing lack of an asbestos ban in the United States has been ruthlessly exploited by industry lobbyists to promote global sales of asbestos,” Kazan-Allen noted in her statement.

U.S. Court of Appeals criticized heavily following overturn

When a three-man panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decided to vacate the ABPR, the judges reportedly admitted that asbestos was, in fact, a toxic material that can have devastating consequences when people are exposed to it, including the development of lung cancer, asbestosis and malignant mesothelioma.

Despite this clear admission that asbestos is a deadly material, the circuit judges took issue with “the manner in which the EPA conducted some of its analysis,” as well as the agency’s “explicit failure to consider the toxicity of likely substitutes,” court documents indicate.

After the ruling was handed down, American asbestos expert Dr. Barry Castleman explained that the EPA asked the Department of Justice to take on an appeal to the Supreme Court, but was rebuffed.

“EPA had to settle for issuing a statement criticizing the court for ‘significant legal errors’ in interpreting the law and substituting its judgment for that of EPA in balancing the costs and benefits of asbestos products banned under the rule,” Castleman said in a 2006 article of the European Journal of Oncology.

Effects of overturn still apparent, time to act is now

The influence of vested interests within the asbestos industry did not stop 20 years ago, as the greed of industry backers and lobbyists continues to be seen around the world, particularly in Canada.

As Kazan-Allen notes in her statement marking the “bloody anniversary,” such behavior was seen as recently as June 2011 during the Rotterdam Convention. During the convention, businessman Baljit Chadha, who is working to secure a $58 million loan guarantee for an asbestos mining project from the Quebec government, stated that there were safe levels of exposure.

While Chadha may have 58 million reasons to support such an outlandish theory, scientists continue to shake their heads, as the World Health Organization reports the age-adjusted mortality rate from mesothelioma more than doubled from 1994 to 2008.

Special Interests Looking to Block Asbestos Ban in Russia

Special interests looking to block asbestos ban in Russia The efforts of the Russian Federal State Unitary Enterprise “NAMI” to ban the use of asbestos in automotive friction products in the Eurasian Economic Community are being rebuffed by stakeholders and special interest groups like the Russian Chrysotile Association.

According to Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) Laurie Kazan-Allen, the Russian Chrysotile Association has even appealed to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in order to aid its fight in blocking the ban and keeping the asbestos industry as is in the country.

Such opposition has been apparent for years, as an August 2008 event titled “Chrysotile Asbestos: Problems of Its Production and Application in Russia and Elsewhere,” heard from a number of Chrysotile Association representatives, who claimed that asbestos can absolutely be handled properly in certain conditions.

Additionally, an asbestos company director claimed his workers had not suffered an asbestos-related disease such as asbestosis or malignant mesothelioma in the previous 30 years, while a medical director asserted the risks of such illnesses were, in fact, very real.

Vested Interests Aside, Asbestos Poses Real Danger

While officials from the asbestos industry quite obviously have vested interests in preventing a ban of the carcinogenic material, the fact remains that even low-level exposure to asbestos can have devastating consequences.

Notably, the symptoms of diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis, typically do not appear until decades after initial exposure, so reports that workers have not been affected by exposure to the material may be premature at this stage.

Additionally, it is clear that asbestos exposure can be deadly, as the World Health Organization estimates that 107,000 people die each year around the world as a result of asbestos-related illnesses.

President of Collegium Ramazzini Backs Asbestos Ban

With the debate growing between special interests and those looking to ban asbestos use, president of the Collegium Ramazzini Dr. Philip Landrigan recently penned a letter to Dr. Tatiana Golikova, Russia’s Minister of Health and Social Development, saying he was in support of the ban.

“Asbestos exposure from grinding brake pads and cleaning brake assemblies is a widely recognized health hazard,” Dr. Landrigan wrote. “Manufacturers of new cars and trucks all over the world have converted to safer technologies. China and over 50 other countries have banned the use of asbestos in vehicle friction materials.”

As a result, Dr. Landrigan told the health minister that he looked forward to helping in any process that could ultimately “phase-out” the use of asbestos.

5 Calls for Sanctions on Canada for Derailing United Nations Protocol

United Nations flag

Flag of the United Nations

A United Nations treaty commonly known as the Rotterdam Convention was signed in September 1998 to promote shared responsibilities to safeguard human health and the environment from harmful effects of hazardous chemicals. Under the Rotterdam Convention, countries nominate chemicals for inclusion in the PIC (prior informed consent) list.

Meaning of Rotterdam Convention List

The PIC listing is not a ban. The chemicals included on the list are subject to extensive information exchange and obligations related to international trade. Exporting nations are required to provide documentation on the nature of the substance so that importers can make informed decision as to whether or not they are capable of using it safely.

Recent Developments

At the Rotterdam Convention meeting in Geneva last week, the Canadian delegation single-handedly derailed a long-standing attempt to include chrysotile asbestos on the Convention’s prior informed consent list. Despite support from 142 out of 143 Parties to the Convention, the listing was blocked due to a 100% unanimity requirement.

Rotterdam Convention Alliance member Laurie Kazan-Allen, Coordinator of International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) has been campaigning since 1999 to achieve justice for all asbestos victims and a global ban on asbestos. Commenting on recent developments, Ms. Kazan-Allen said,

“What we saw last week in Geneva…was pure evil. Canada is now a rogue state and should be dealt with in the same way as other administrations which have breached the acceptable level of behavior expected of civilized societies.”

Calls for Action

At a seminar in Belgium yesterday organized by the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats in the European Parliament in collaboration with trade unions and non-governmental organizations, Ms. Kazan-Allen made these requests of the Members of the European Parliament:

1.  Issue a denunciation of the obstructive behavior of the Canadian delegation at the Rotterdam Convention meeting. Measures should be considered such as sanctions and trade boycotts which would translate outrage into action.

2.  Challenge the $58 million loan guarantee that the Quebec government offered the international consortium that plans to open a new asbestos mine in Quebec.

3.  Lobby the European Commission and Directorate General (DG) for Health and Consumers, DG Environment, DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion, and DG Justice to explore all possible options for effecting a change in Canada’s asbestos policy.

4.  Raise concerns about Canada’s reckless endangerment of human life, especially the lives of vulnerable people in asbestos-consuming countries, at all possible forums.

5.  Place on record support for a WHO Framework Convention on Asbestos Control and to work with their WHO and ILO partners to progress this initiative.

Kazan Law strongly supports these calls and suggests that all organizations and individuals join with us in supporting the United Nations protocol to protect vulnerable populations from the hazards of asbestos.

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